“Would you be interested in beta testing Princess Evangile?,” the e-mail said. This was my first project coming off d2b vs DEARDROPS, and I was eager to work again. I took a look at some info about the game online. A game where you just romance girls as the typical only guy in an all-girls’ environment? I despaired a bit at what I thought would sure be some awful, generic nukige.
Turns out that, as I would soon learn, I was completely wrong.
Princess Evangile is the story of the not-so-subtly named Okonogi Masaya, a young man with a deadbeat father who is totally down on his luck. Just as he’s about to succumb to poverty and despair, he’s offered the miraculous chance to attend Vincenes Academy, a private school for girls. Turns out they’re considering the idea of gender-integrating the school, and he is to be a sample of men to see what it would be like.
Over the course of the game, you have four girls to choose from: Rise, the responsible and upstanding girl who recruited you for Vincennes, Chiho, your childhood friend who unexpectedly reunites with you, Ritsuko, the serious and straight-laced girl, and Ayaka, the flighty and laid-back older student.
This is where the game really shines much more than expected. The common route is very long and full of unexpected twists and turns. I don’t exaggerate when I say you’ll be laughing, crying, and cheering your way through many of the scenes. There were moments when I felt legitimately terrified on the protagonist’s behalf, and quite angry at many of the characters. There were also many tear-jerking moments where I couldn’t help but be thankful nobody else was around when I played the game. The writing ropes you in and gets you attached to the characters, which is a feat few visual novels manage to accomplish very well.
Each of the girls has their own problems and backstories, and you’ll only get the full picture by playing all of the routes. This applies to the other characters as well, particularly the ruthless headmistress who has it out for you the second you step through the front gates (she’s vehemently opposed to the idea of gender integration and will resort to anything to make you leave). All in all, the routes are all quite good except for a moment or two in a few of the routes where certain things seem hamfisted or poorly executed, but even then these gripes are minor (I can’t really give them away without spoiling anything).
The only major complaint I have is the lack of a Ruriko route. Ruriko is a side character who is a member of the White Lily Society (the group of friends you join with to help push for school reform), however “side character” is a light term here. Ruriko is a very prominent character from the get-go and stays relevant throughout all of the common route. In fact, during the common route she actually receives her own romantic development with you where you help her get out of an unwanted arranged marriage. And yet, shortly after her clearly expressing her feelings for you (and her grandfather even giving you the seal of approval), the romance with her just sort of fades into oblivion and you never hear about it again. In my opinion she deserved a route more than Ritsuko did for sure (Ritsuko is in the Red Rose society which directly opposes your own anyway), but I guess they wanted a kuudere in there. In any case, there’s a Ruriko route in the fan disc sequel, so let’s hope we get to see that.
The character art in this game is pretty. The sprites are well-drawn and I don’t really have any complaints about them, but when I look at the art I see more-or-less that same thing that I see as stereotypically “VN.” Companies like OVERDRIVE have done a really good job of creating a unique and personal style, but Moon Stone hasn’t really done that here.
The other art assets, however, are very good. The background are all well-drawn and detailed, which gives you a nice sense of the beauty of Vincennes. There is also a large variety of backgrounds, which makes the game pretty to look at. There are also animation assets that crops up occasionally, such as sakura petals falling under the trees during certain scenes that add a really nice touch of pizazz to the whole thing. They show a nice touch in that they change the text boxes’ color to show whose perspective you’re reading from when the perspective changes. I definitely have to praise this game for its production value.
The music in this game is quite lovely and well-appropriated. Most of the music is classically composed, and some of the pieces are actual classical masterpieces that Moon Stone has borrowed. These pieces fit very well with the aloof and majestic atmosphere Vincennes creates, and they do a good job of balancing out the story. Certain tracks played at key moments are well done and add quite a bit to the scenes; my particular favorite is a track called “An Important Time” which plays during very intimate scenes between the characters.
My only complaint with the soundtrack is the lack of variety. The tunes worked, but I felt like I was often hearing the same song over and over again; I wish they had composed more music to use just to make certain songs appear less often (particularly the slice-of-life tracks).
Of course, since it’s a romance game, there’s plenty of sex to be had. To be honest, there’s not a whole lot to say about the sex. It’s all very vanilla; blowjob/cunnilingus, paizuri, and various sex positions are all that really happens. The most exciting thing is one scene where two of the characters have sex in a bathroom in a public place.
It’s been a long journey beta testing Princess Evangile, and I can’t say that I don’t feel a twinge of sadness now that it’s coming to an end (especially since I finished with the Ayaka route which has a touching send-off final scene). However, I’m happy to say that my expectations have been overturned: Princess Evangile is not a generic nukige or otaku-dating sim, but instead a really good game with an intriguing story and a likable cast of characters. Play it when it comes out, you won’t regret it.